Manila Bulletin

On bank fees and charges

- ATTY. VIC DIMAGIBA Atty. Vic Dimagiba is Pres­i­dent of La­ban Kon­syumer, Inc. Email: la­bankon­syumer@ Business · Finance · Banking · PLDT-Philippine LDT

Banks col­lect fees and charges for cer­tain ser­vices they per­form for their clients. What is not un­der­stand­able to me, an or­di­nary con­sumer, are fees and charges for bank ser­vices which were pre­vi­ously ren­dered free of charge.

I wrote the BSP gov­er­nor as early as July, 2019 call­ing his at­ten­tion to prac­tices such as col­lect­ing fees for ser­vices which were pre­vi­ously avail­able with­out cost, cre­at­ing cer­tain classes of ser­vices such as links to other providers which, while free at launch, are even­tu­ally charged, in­creas­ing fees for a cer­tain trans­ac­tion where there is no vis­i­ble new feature to jus­tify the new fee. I told him that we the con­sumers are con­fused as to what we are pay­ing for and are ques­tion­ing whether these are ac­tu­ally fair.

I listed the fol­low­ing spe­cific items as ex­am­ples:

1) En­cash­ing a check in a bank branch which is not the main­tain­ing branch will cost an ad­di­tional R100.00

2) Over-the-counter (OTC) de­posits and with­drawals made by an ac­count holder will be charged

R100.00 in one bank and

R50.00 in an­other bank when the trans­ac­tions are made in branches other than the main­tain­ing branch

3) De­posits made by a third party to an ac­count which is out­side the ge­o­graph­i­cal area of that ac­count’s main­tain­ing branch is charged R50.00

4) Trans­ac­tions made on­line / mo­bile app are charged fees

5) A fee of R100.00 and a cap of R50,000.00 are im­posed on fund trans­fers from the bank’s on­line bank­ing plat­form to par­tic­i­pat­ing banks

6) On­line fees and charges are col­lected for trans­ac­tions made within the same bank

7) Fees are col­lected on OTC trans­ac­tions be­tween an NCR branch and a re­gional branch of the same bank.

The BSP’s Cen­ter for Learn­ing and In­clu­sion Ad­vo­cacy replied, in­form­ing me that they have noted my con­cerns and that they will take them into con­sid­er­a­tion dur­ing the reg­u­lar re­view of poli­cies and reg­u­la­tions. They added that they will hold dis­cus­sions with the banks on these con­cerns. Since then, noth­ing has hap­pened, and I con­cluded that the Cen­ter’s

re­ply to me was merely lip ser­vice to the Anti-Red Tape Law.

Now that the BSP has an­nounced that bank on­line trans­fer fees are waived (un­til year-end), the BSP has said it can only “ask," but not im­pose on, or or­der, banks to waive the fees be­cause the fees are part of the bank’s busi­ness, call­ing these fees as “convenienc­e fees” which should be shoul­dered by the con­sumers.

The BSP also re­cently talked about its dig­i­tal pay­ments trans­for­ma­tion roadmap – a good move.

How­ever, I dis­agree with how this roadmap is now be­ing used. Banks are jus­ti­fy­ing the col­lec­tion of fees and charges for the on­line trans­ac­tions by rea­son­ing that the col­lec­tion of these fees and charges will pro­vide them with funds to sup­port their goal of trans­form­ing them­selves closer to the ideal dig­i­tal bank model.

I dis­agree. First, the con­sumer al­ready con­trib­utes to­wards the dig­i­tal­iza­tion goal when he pays for the In­ter­net to ac­cess the on­line plat­forms of the banks and ser­vice providers.

Sec­ond, the BSP can in fact or­der the banks to waive fees for on­line trans­ac­tions. It can nd the le­gal author­ity in the 1983 Supreme Court rul­ing on the case led by the Philip­pine Con­sumers Foun­da­tion, Inc. against PLDT where the Court held that “the load on the back of our peo­ple is heavy enough and let us not in­crease its weight fur­ther and that PLDT, which made mil­lions of pe­sos in spite of its poor ser­vice, should

rst think of im­proved ser­vice, be­fore in­creased pro ts and while the plan to ex­pand the com­pany pro­gram and im­prove its ser­vice is laud­able, the ex­penses should not be shoul­dered by the tele­phone sub­scribers."

My third rea­son is that banks make bil­lions of pe­sos in pro ts and on­line pay­ments trans­ac­tions are in bil­lions of pe­sos and earn in­come, there­fore, they have the re­sources to ab­sorb the cost of ex­pan­sion and im­prove­ments such as the on­line fees.

I hope the BSP will stand down on the con­tin­ued im­po­si­tion of these fees and charges and pro­vide eco­nomic re­lief for the con­sumers.

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